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Solving the San Francisco housing crisis

November 19, 2015

San Francisco residents recently took to the polls to address the defining issue of this iconic city: housing. As we’ve been told many times before, Americans are now in a “sharing economy,” as evidenced by the rise in popularity of companies like Uber and Airbnb. The problem is that while a company like Airbnb offers inexpensive boarding in a city like San Francisco, its corporate headquarters, located just across the bay in Silicon Valley, helps to drive up home prices in the very same city via the wealthy tech players moving in. Many residents feel the middle-class (never mind the poor and homeless) are being pushed out of their homes, and the measures up for a vote reflect this crisis. Here’s a breakdown of the major initiatives in play at the ballot box.

The results cited below are courtesy of SFElections.org

Proposition A (Passed 75% in favor)

The low-cost housing sketched out in Proposition I will be funded by a $310-million bond. The money in question is earmarked for a number of purposes, including the preservation of established low-cost affordable housing sites, construction of new low-and-middle-income buildings, prevention of long-term residents in low-cost apartments, and the funding of assistance programs for middle-income residents to buy their own homes.

Proposition K (Passed 74% in favor)

If there remains any “surplus city property” in San Francisco, then this measure seeks to utilize it. Proposition K frees up available buildings in the city to be converted into housing for everyone from the homeless to the middle class.

Proposition F (Failed 56% opposed)

This is the most contentious measure on the ballot. Powerful politicians, like Ca. Senator Dianne Feinstein, support it, while Airbnb has spent $8 million to defeat it. The law would limit home rentals to 75 days a year, which Airbnb, says would hamstring its business model. Moreover, they also claim it won’t free up any housing like backers of the proposition suggest it will. But probably the most controversial part of the measure is that it would allow “interested parties,” such as neighbors, to inform on anyone they feel is breaking the law. That does have a bit of a “Gestapo” ring to it.

Proposition I (Failed 57% opposed)

This is another measure sold as a remedy to San Francisco’s housing crisis. What it does is place a moratorium on market-rate housing construction for 18 months, which would sideline the big developers while the city implements a neighborhood plan to create affordable housing. San Francisco incumbent mayor Ed Lee supports it. Considering that San Francisco’s median rent has skyrockets to $4,000 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, it makes political sense for the mayor to be on the side of affordable housing.

Regardless of the results from these polls, it’s unlikely the housing crisis will be solved overnight. It seems that, for the foreseeable future at least, the city’s middle class will continue to be squeezed out of what was once a place that welcomed everyone with open arms—regardless of the size of their wallet.